Colonel José Arturo Castellanos saved Jews during the WWII
New York, Sunday, May 30, 2010 (ZENIT.org). Thanks to an initiative of the International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation, Colonel José Arturo Castellanos, a catholic and a former Consul of El Salvador in Geneva during the WWII, was declared ”Righteous Among the Nations” by Yad Vashem, the ”Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Authority.”
According to some sources, during Castellanos’ tenure as Consul General in Geneva from 1942 to 1945, he saved the lives of around 40,000 Central European Jews persecuted by the Nazis, by the means of conceding false documents which accredited them as citizens of El Salvador.
Castellanos appointed George Mandel-Mantello, a Romanian Jewish refugee who resided in Geneva, as First Secretary of the Consulate, and authorized him to issue thousands of ”Certificates of Nationality” for the Jewish refugees from the occupied Europe.
The certificates proved that the carrier was a citizen of El Salvador. Whoever carried the document was protected from deportation.
In 1944 Castellanos appointed Switzerland as representative of El Salvador’s interest in occupied Hungary. Following this initiative Mantello issued thousands of certificates of El Salvador nationality to Hungarian Jews, from the office of the Switzerland’s Consul Charles Lutz.
Thus, El Salvador becomes the forth country from South America to join the group of nations whose citizens helped Jews persecuted by the Nazis during the Holocaust.
In a statement given from New York to the Catholic News Agency ”Zenit”, Baruch Tenembaum, founder of the Wallenberg Foundation, stated that ”it is not possible to imagine the Holocaust without the bright figure of General Castellanos. His glorious deeds are in the range of other epic humanitarian missions, namely the ones fulfilled by Raoul Wallenberg or Aristides de Sousa Mendes. We celebrate this joyful moment working, so that other ceremonies of justice and recognition can take place in the near future.”